East Lindsey District Council alongside Boston Borough Council and South Holland District Council cover 2,250 km² of East Lincolnshire with a combined population of over 300,000. The sparsely distributed population coupled with limited infrastructure, acts as a barrier to communications and hinders take up of online services by our residents.
Councils, Businesses and Residents are accustomed to accessing information at a place and time that suits them. When accessing online information it is important the experience and information returned is consistent. Technology adoption is gaining momentum (particularly following infrastructure investment across Lincolnshire to improve broadband accessibility), and collectively we aim to embrace new technologies and invest in innovation, becoming responsive to resident needs.
Successful digital transformation requires redesign on every level – workforce, customer, service, process, governance and technology – to make public services faster at doing things, more adaptable, able to share more information and do so securely.
East Lincolnshire’s Digital Discovery will focus on the people we want to use our digital services, the public and all stakeholders directly affected, e.g. Customer Contact and relevant service staff. We will establish what barriers there are to digital integration and using technology, and what would encourage them into using it.
The three Councils previously relied on staff to give their views on what they think people wanted, often biased to their knowledge/experience of their service. Service reviews have demonstrated that not all staff/teams have embraced the introduction of technology and moulded existing work patterns to fit, leading to laborious processes and duplication.
A discovery of this nature would ensure any digital services developed are done so with the knowledge that this is what the public wants and needs, that they have been designed and built in a way that will ensure maximum take up based on actual customer feedback.
Delivery of new digital services could then be prioritised by factors such as demand, value for the customer, service provided and complexity of service. This framework could then be utilised for existing services, revisiting and potentially redesigning to ensure they are as efficient and effective as possible.
Putting Lincolnshire residents (across East Lindsey, South Holland and Boston) at the starting point to ensure the processes are responsive for the customer (not exclusively determined by location, but focussed on needs) and linking to the service provision will make our public services more effective and make a difference to the people and communities they represent.
Online payments have increased and some digital services are working well. To work towards the delivery of digital services across public services we need to effectively review other services which could achieve similar success, and there is interest from the public in more online services.
Additional services are more likely to be successful if they are properly researched and implemented with measurable value for those impacted by them.
Population projections demonstrate an increase in the 65+ categories for Lincolnshire. ELDC has a residential population of 26% of over 65’s and has committed to being an ‘Age Friendly’ district meeting their needs by providing appropriate and innovative services. Boston and South Holland have higher proportions of eastern European immigrants. By putting the user at the forefront of the project, the recommendations may reflect a need to be adaptive and accessible.
More often than not, this is likely to require integration to back office services to maximise the efficiency and accuracy of the service, though this can slow down development and increase costs if APIs are not available.
Current tools, products and projects which will be utilised:
- Early adopters and pockets of improved processes and digital development.
- Service reviews.
- Within ELDC/SHDC the current CRM solution of TK Dialogs and Microsoft Dynamics CRM is nearing end of life. It is being replaced with the Goss iCM Self Service/Assisted Self Service platform with the aim of developing and adopting an assisted self-service, whilst at Boston the current Abavus system (facilitated by Our Council Services) is being reviewed and exploration of different platforms is being trialled with WordPress. This project is not technology biased and we are seeking a framework for innovative integration of IT with the objective of fully integrating and utilising digital services for the benefit of residents across council boundaries.
A collaborative and comprehensive user focussed assessment/research will incorporate:
- Consulting with the public (reflecting demographics associated with Lincolnshire, ensuring inclusive user research).
- Pooling existing data and mapping customer journeys.
- Explore assistive technologies.
- Analyse best practice.
- Critically review processes across services and seek redesign options for digital integration.
The role of the project manager and business analyst will make sure:
- outcomes are aligned with service vision/business strategy across Councils;
- challenge constructively to achieve solutions that are fit for purpose;
- facilitate collaboration and lead effective communication with all stakeholders to support design, build and delivery to meet the user needs.
We acknowledge that our websites are our channel of choice, which needs to be further exploited. Our existing research and statistics show the direction of travel in terms of how customers are choosing to access services with online average monthly website use growing on average by 80% and online payments increasing by nearly 50% over the last 4 years, alongside an 18% reduction in telephone calls (ELDC). Recent statistics released by Socitm indicate the cost of Customer Services across delivery methods:
- Face to Face: £8.23 per visit
- Telephone Call: £3.21 per call
- Website interaction: £0.39 per interaction
Our objective is to improve the online experience and encourage a channel shift for customers to move from calls and face to face contact to website interactions. Our assumption is an increase of online services will continue and Face to Face and Telephone Calls will decrease, providing a reduction in customer service costs, but a detailed analysis of the costs of online improvements need to be integrated into this project.
To help prioritise which services to make digital, the ‘as is’ costs must be understood to help determine the value of proceeding with the change. Back office integration if required can be costly, and will also need to be maintained and tested as software is upgraded or processes changed. This linked to the volume of interactions will help determine whether to continue or abandon.
Nationally, a survey of 400 senior officials published by Deloitte in 2015, observes that the public sector lacks the skills and funding to successfully deliver digital public services. In the UK, 89% of leaders across the government, NHS, police and higher education divisions acknowledged that their organisations pursued digital solutions to reduce costs. For 32% companies the budget for digital increased while 28% companies believed they had sufficient resources to implement digitalisation and digital solution. Only a quarter of the participating organisations had sufficient skills within the organisation and only a third believed that their companies are prepared to respond to digital trends.
This digital discovery project will provide a framework for digital adoption/integration into public services – demonstrating cost/benefit analysis. Digital skills/expertise will provide a route for effective digital solutions across public services and respond to trends of the residents/users.
The strategic partnership with Public Sector Partnership Services (PSPS), East Lindsey District Council and South Holland District provides a platform to investigate larger transformational pieces of work that can be done to drive down costs and improve efficiency. PSPS will lead on establishing the project with the three Councils and will be ideally positioned to assess customer needs, appraise digital adoption across council services and review market offerings.
The establishment of the Digital Discovery Project Group will provide the hub for communications and engagement across all partners and stakeholders. The group will adopt an open and learning environment for regular sharing and updates. To facilitate this we will meet and utilise existing digital facilities, including video conferencing and email.
To support a learning environment the project group will not be confined to set meetings but encouraged to share best practice, new technologies, feedback from the consultation, etc. – capturing information through shared Trello boards and shared to a broader audience through blogs (including vlogs).
As this project has an ambitious remit of developing digital services based on customer feedback, the support and guidance from the Local Digital Collaboration Unit and previous learnings from previous Discovery projects will be valuable and will support an iterative approach to our project. For example, access to user research from previous Discovery projects and best practice for sharing the outputs across the local government sector.
Analysis and design may require additional digital expertise around accessibility. Based on the user research, additional training or development may incorporate testing of digital services with assistive technology and developing with future proofing in mind around apps, artificial intelligence (AI) and home hubs (voice recognition).
We recognise that additional support will incorporate guidance from Public Sector Partnership Services (PSPS), particularly around customer needs knowledge, appraising digital adoption across council services, Agile training and reviewing current systems/platforms. PSPS will also need to procure the services/expertise of a project manager/business analyst.